Political changes in the Gulf States affecting Armenians


Azad-Hye, Dubai, 22 January 2006: Since November 2004 four Gulf rulers died, introducing the region into a new era of likely changes in the political and economic prospects.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi for 40 years, died in November, 2004. Saudi Arabia's King Fahd bin Abdelaziz died in August 2005, followed on the 4th of January 2006 by the sudden death of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the age of 62.


Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the ruler and Emir of Kuwait since 1978, is the last of these old generation rulers who passed away. He died on the 15th January at age 78.


Although most of the power transfer in these countries is being worked out in a smooth and calculated manner, it is not a secret that not all are satisfied with the process. This is expressed mainly in Kuwait, where there is a larger degree of press and parliamentary freedom compared to the other Gulf countries. Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah has been de facto ruler for the past few years and analysts say he is the most likely contender for the post of Emir if Sheikh Saad Al-Abdallah Al-Sabah were forced to step down. 


The Armenian Communities in the Gulf States expressed their condolences to the leadership of the countries where they are residing. For example, a delegation representing the Catholicosate of Cilicia visited the Ambassador of Kuwait to Lebanon and expressed condolences for the death of the Emir of Kuwait. The Ambassador expressed his appreciation for this motion and referred positively to the recent visit His Holiness Aram I paid to Kuwait and the meetings he held there.


The major concern of the Armenians living in the Gulf States is related to the course of the economic development under the influence of the new leaderships. It is fortunate that the economic indicators are showing prosperous and booming period ahead for all these countries, especially with the high-pitched oil rates worldwide.


Another concern is the pace of the replacement of the foreign workers with locals as part of national labor policies in these countries. It is believed that the process has very limited effect on the Armenians since the majority of them do not work in publicly owned companies. Those who work in labor-intensive positions have their own workshops or possess not easily replaceable skills.


Regarding the political dimension of the changes and especially in relation with the regional developments, it is possible, due to the escalation in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, that the political relations of these countries with the Gulf States to experience some fluctuations, which in some way may affect the Armenians who carry the passports of the relevant countries. This is more obvious in the behavior of the Kuwaiti authorities towards the Syrians, since the leadership of Syria has explicitly supported Saddam in the last war. The Baath party is detested by the Kuwaitis who correlate it with the invading Iraqi forces and any association therefore with this party, which continues to govern Syria, can carry some negative consequences.


We believe that the leadership of Kuwait will be able always to differentiate between the ordinary people and the political leadership of a particular country.